Kipps students get hands-on history lesson
BLACKSBURG – A little more than 400 years ago, three cultures collided on the shore of what would eventually be called Virginia. The American Indian, European and African cultures would give birth to a new nation years later.
Fast forward a few hundred years to Tuesday.
Kipps Elementary School students could be seen trying on reproduction clothing from some of history’s most famous members – Pocahontas and John Rolfe.
Students were treated to a hands-on educational experience from Steven Prokopchak, an outreach educator at the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation. During the hour of learning, students held reproduction axes, arrowheads and even European-settler armor.
In addition to holding reproduction artifacts, students learned about reasons European settlers came to America. Prokopchak also talked about the similarities and differences of the three cultures converging on Virginia in the early 1600s.
Educators made visits to several schools in the Montgomery County Public School System during the past two weeks.
The Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation has created the “Outreach in Virginia” program to bring pieces of the Jamestown settlement to life inside Virginia classrooms. The program is endorsed by The National Council for the Social Studies and assists teachers in meeting Virginia’s Standards of Learning.
“It’s really great bringing these programs to different schools,” Prokopchak said. “We travel all over Virginia and some of those schools can’t take field trips to see us, but we go to them and it’s really interesting for them.”
But the experience is more than just hands-on. The program is also designed to be “inquiry-oriented” so that students begin thinking back to what they’ve learned in the past about early Virginia history.
Prokopchak was impressed several times when students in Sarah Weithman’s fifth-grade class answered tough questions about the Powhatan tribe.
“The kids get a big kick out of it,” Prokopchak said. “They get to see history as something that’s just not in a book, but something you can actually touch, see and experience.”
History education is something that leads to so many other places, Prokopchak added.
“If you know your early Virginia history, that helps you out when you get to all the other history that you’re going to be learning,” Prokopchak said. “If you get to high school and you don’t know your early Virginia stuff, it just feels like everything happened in a vacuum.”
Prokopchak said early Virginia history helps students understand why values like freedom are important to those living in the United States today.
“Without Virginia history, you have no background for where it all came from.” Prokopchak said.
“That’s why I think having a broad history background is important.”
For more information about the “Outreach in Virginia” program, visit www.historyisfun.org.
The Roanoke Times | 381-8627
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